Power To The People Conference – A Future Without Fossil Fuels

A week of protests and discussions in Vienna, on the occasion of the annual European Gas Conference

At the end of March, Vienna turned into the EU capital of fossil gas. At the European Gas Conference, the major oil and gas companies sat around a VIP table with regulators, decision-makers and investors to keep the fossil fuel business alive. Behind closed doors in a five-star hotel, the fossil fuel industry discussed lucrative new dirty gas deals, heedless of the devastating impacts their choices will have and already have on people and the planet. 

But not all the action was inside that hotel.

Outside the conference venue, people shouted slogans and songs to express their indignation and anger. Thousands peacefully marched against the fossil fuel industry’s plans to gasify the future. Throughout the conference, activists organised various actions in Vienna and near the city to demand that fossil fuel companies halt their climate-wrecking activities.

Protests outside the European Gas Conference’s Venue, Vienna
Power To The People – A Way Out Of Fossil Fuels Dependency 

How can we secure a bottom-up clean alternative to a polluting neocolonial energy system? This was the crucial question of the Power to the People’ Counter Conference. In the days in the run-up to the European Gas Conference, Food & Water Action Europe (FWAE), along with hundreds of activists, discussed the horrific climate and social impacts of fossil gas. During three days, we gathered in a counter conference to exchange about energy companies’ plan to continue investing in fossil projects, such as pipelines and LNG terminals, and their push to promote false solutions to lock us into further dependence on fossil fuels.

A photo from the session – The push for new gas and hydrogen: the corporate agenda behind the European Gas Conference

We also heard the voices of communities that suffer most from the extraction of fossil gas and oil. Activists from the Don’t Gas Africa campaign shared stories of their resistance to gas drilling and fracking and infrastructure projects in the continent. The dash for gas in Africa forces people to repeatedly resettle, often affecting indigenous and the most vulnerable communities. Drilling and fracking is also a continuation of colonialism, and much of the gas that is extracted in different parts of Africa is exported to Europe or involves European companies. The same colonial extractivist logic and narratives also affects South America. Activists from Colombia told us about the fight against big oil and gas companies that violate and displace communities, especially rural communities, while destroying fragile and vital ecosystems.  

It is clear that the climate crisis and other ecological crises can only be solved by addressing systemic inequalities. Activists from Iran, Kurdistan and Afghanistan reminded us during the counter conference how patriarchal societies, capitalist exploitation, and the destruction of the environment go hand in hand. The fossil economy also fuels social injustice in the western European continent and western world, where the cost of living crisis is hitting low-income households the hardest.

The message from the conference is clear: fossil fuels means war, social injustice, human, environmental and climate destruction, and profits in the hands of the few. The fossil fuel industry is putting all of us in harm’s way – but just, clean and cheaper solutions already exist. It’s time to act now before it’s too late. We must start by putting power back into the hands of the people – or just like the Don’t Gas Africa participants put it: Amandla! Awethu! (Power! It’s Ours!, in the Xhosa language of South Africa)


Check some of the many actions that happened in and around Vienna in March here: